March 23, 2018

foot and bike prints

I was just hopping off my bike at the post office yesterday afternoon, having cycled up to New Nearest Village for a smear test,* and on my way to on a friend to pick up some post from our old address, because obviously this being Bigtown, one of her colleagues has moved into our old cottage and is passing it on to her, and it struck me that this was a perfect multi-errand ride, just the sort of thing to get you ahead of the game if it were Errandonneering season. And then I remembered it was Errandoneering season – in fact the 2018 Errandonnee had started 3 days ago, during which time I had unwittingly done six excellent bike-based errands, including cyling to get a lift to choir (Arts and Entertainment), taking my bike to the bike shop to not get serviced (it’s a bit reassuring that the bike shop doesn’t find it straightforward to maintain my bike either) (um, Personal Care?) going to shovel horse manure into bags (um, not actually sure what category that goes in. I didn’t actually haul any of it back by bike or it would definitely have qualified as ‘You Carried WHAT on your Bike?’). Anyway, it’s all moot as I hadn’t properly recorded the rides in question and if it’s about nothing else, errandonneering is about sticking to the rules (which is, before you all get a bit sniffy in the comments about unnecessarily elaborate rules, all part of the fun).

spring sky

Spring clouds for illustrative purposes only. Lark not included. Picture posed by model. Serving suggestion

Today my only bike-borne errand was to fetch the paper – category Store – except that I also heard the first lark of spring singing its little heart out on the way there, and spotted the first lambs near us on the way back and it was very cheering after the winter we have been having. So maybe stopping to appreciate both counts as a Peaceful Everyday Action?

Clearly I don’t really need a hashtag and a challenge to get me out running errands on my bike, but if you’ve never given Errandonneering a go, there’s still time, and if winter can just bring itself to stay away for good this time, it might even be fun.

* Chaps: sorry if that was too much information but they save lives so I thought what the hell, why be coy about it? It’s been reading about other people’s that has finally nudged me into to making an appointment to get it done until, so hopefully this will give someone else the nudge they need.

Errandonneering Time

March 8, 2016

Don’t worry, I haven’t forgotton it’s #Errandoneering season – and I’ve even been remembering to take photos as a record along the way (well, mostly). It’s been a busy weekend and it’s only got busier since, but fortunately it’s been the sort of busy that involves going places and thus lots of cycling.

So – remembering the many rules of Errandonneering and with the usual caveat that my categories of errands never fit nicely into the official ones, here’s how far I’ve got. I know, you can’t wait …


Errand one: bike to the station, train to Carlisle, meet my sister & head up to Glasgow for the pre-Walk-Cycle-Vote training day planning session (and by ‘planning’ I mean ‘help drink all the wine with my fellow organisers’)
Distance: 8 miles to the station, mumble-something miles to our destination in Glasgow (forgot to check) picking up a Next Bike for my sister on my way (which features a bike rental process that expects you to be able to hear instructions on your mobile over the sound of a Glasgow Friday night out)
Category: It strikes me that we need a ‘multimodal’ or ‘travel’ categories for errands like catching a train. Failing that, given the amount of wine we consumed, it would have to be ‘social’.
What I learned: If you keep picking up your Brompton by the saddle, eventually it’s going to break. If you’re unlucky, it will break as you’re going around the only tricky roundabout you have to tackle in Bigtown. If you’re lucky, you will be so focused on not being sideswiped by a car, you won’t notice until you got to the station. De-nosed Brompton saddles are more comfortable than they look


Errand two: Four of us toted all the stuff you need to run an active travel campaigning workshop to the venue on one Brompton, one touring bike, one town bike and a mountain bike with no carrying capacity whatsoever.
Distance: ahem. Some miles. Possibly many, especially as there was a bit of back tracking involved
Category: this one has to go under ‘you carried what on a bike?’
Observation: it’s amazing what you can carry on a bike …

campaigners' day kit

We then cycled to the pub for a post-implementation review, but I forgot to take any pictures. If I had I would have observed that it’s possible for a nine-year-old to manage some quite scary Glasgow roads on a bike, but only an extremely impressive nine-year-old (who had just taken part in a cycle campaigning workshop)


Errand three: Down to the shop for the paper, enjoying the glorious sunshine.
Distance: 11 miles round trip
Category: store
Observation: we’d been discussing doing selfies for International Women’s Day so I thought I had better practice. What I learned was how difficult it is to do a selfie, at least if you’re me. Any hope of getting the bike in the shot as well as pulling any face other than ‘how is this supposed to work then?’ is completely beyond me. Still, nice sun

failed selfie

how does this thing work?

Errand four: Down to the village hall for the community council meeting, where I failed to persuade my fellow community councillors that turning Big A Road into a dual carriageway was a terrible idea. Bah.
Distance: 3 miles
Category: Is there one for lost causes? Or hopeless tasks? I’ll have to file it under ‘work or volunteering’ I guess
What I learned: I live in a nice social media bubble most of the time – 99% of my twitter timeline would be horrified at the thought of building more roads. Sometimes it’s good to step outside and encounter the real world

community council agenda

The exciting world of the very bottom rung of the local government ladder. At least ‘dog poo’ is no longer a standing item on the agenda


Errand five: Into Bigtown
Distance: 16 miles round trip
Category: non-store errand as one of the reasons was to meet a fellow Bigtown Cycle Campaign member to get to the bank to attempt to add a signatory to the Bigtown Cycle Campaing account, which is never as simple as it might be. We completed round one – filling in the form and assembling all the signatures we need, and handing it to the clerk, and have now proceeded to round two: being told that that was the wrong form and here is the form we should have filled in. We then took each others’ photos, which is a hell of a lot easier than attempting a selfie
Observation: the minimum number of visits to the bank to change anything on an account is N+1 where N is the number of visits you have already made …

Phew. That’s five down, seven more to go


March 14, 2015

There are relaxing ways to spend the weekend – and then there’s manning the Bigtown Cycling Campaign stall at the Environment Fair for the whole day. My Brompton had a starring role in the Brompton folding-and-unfolding race, which meant I had to demonstrate the fold to several million people and then talk them through the process as they attempted to beat the record of 43 seconds set by a fellow member (and Brompton owner) using an innovative technique that involved undoing all the catches at once and collapsing it in one fluid move – possibly not something to try for the first time when you’ve a train to catch and a platform full of curious people watching.

Trying to help the others, I realised how unconscious the whole folding and unfolding process has become to me. For instance, it was only on about the ninth or tenth demonstration that I realised I was using my knee to gently hold the frame down as I swung the front part of the bike round. Nor had I really realised that you have to stand on one side in order to fold it, and it’s impossible to do it from the other. Or that, if you don’t just let the handlebars drop down and click into position with the right satisfying clunk, then it just isn’t right, somehow, although that’s more of a stylistic point than a practical one. Either way, trying to help someone else is like trying to teach someone to knit – it’s almost impossible without taking it out of their hands and just doing it for them…

The other thing I realised is that standing around talking to people all day is absolutely knackering. Even when you’re talking to them about bikes. Add in 18 miles (and Brompton miles count double) and my final errand and it’s no wonder I’ll be spending what remains of the weekend on the sofa … I am DONE.

Brompton outside post office

Errand 11 – post office, category: non-store errand, observation: it’s amazing how quickly people can move to get in front of you in the queue for the counter and then how slowly they move thereafter

Brompton folding races

Errand 12 – Environment fair, category: wild card, observation: I may be the least handy person ever, but I have at least managed to learn ‘the fold’. Therefore I conclude that, with time, anyone can fold a Brompton

Total 18 miles.


March 13, 2015

Apologies to those readers who do not check the blog every day thinking ‘gosh, I really hope there will be more photos of a bike parked outside various random locations’ (and there must be a few of you), but I’ve got my teeth into the errandonnee challenge now, and I’m going to complete it if it kills me.

After yesterday’s drenching, I was wondering today whether it was going to be possible: the time to complete it is drawing short (hurrah, I hear you cry) and the right sort of errands were proving a little thin on the ground. Today I had to cycle up to help prepare for Bigtown’s annual Environment Fair, so that was one, but with the deadline looming I still needed another four further errands. Fortunately, I remembered that the treasurer of our local bike campaign worked nearby, so I was able to nip round to his office to hand-deliver him a cheque (he’s probably still wondering what was so urgent about it), followed by a swing by another local bike shop to deliver some Pedal on Parliament flyers, bringing the day’s total to three… It might just be doable after all.

Now all that I needed to do was decide what category to put them all in:

large pannier bag

Errand 8: To the Environment Fair. Category ‘you carried WHAT on a bike?’ (I appreciate this doesn’t look very impressive, but hey, I’m desperate here. And besides, that cow pannier is (to quote an ancient car advert which is now irrevocably stuck in my head) ‘inordinately capacious’. As well as the newspaper it contains my laptop, masses of POP flyers and posters, several dozen cycling maps of Bigtown, Bigtown Cycling Campaign bunting, assorted useful cycling leaflets, cycling campaign paperwork, two planning applications someone thought I might be interested in, random stationery that might come in handy, a pair of scissors, spare inner tube, two bike pumps, and the random crap that lives in my pannier full time). Observation: with that much weight in the pannier, I need a double-leg kickstand. Fortunately not a lesson I learned the hard way, given my laptop was in the bag.

bike and car parked

Errand 9: Delivering a cheque. Category: non-store errand. Observation: I didn’t notice until I looked at the picture that everyone was parked on the double yellow lines! Clearly it’s not just bikes that get to park wherever they please…

bike outside the bike shop

Errand 10: Distributing POP flyers. Category: Hmm. Going to have to play my wild card. Although I ended up chatting so long to the owner, it may just qualify as a social call.

Total distance: 18 miles.

I promise it will be back to gardening soon…


March 20, 2014

There is much to write about – including more exciting drainage news and possibly my least enjoyable bike ride ever – but I’m short of time to do either justice so you’re stuck with me doing the paperwork for the Errandonnee. In the excitement of Monday’s exciting drainage news I forgot to mention that I had also cycled down to Papershop Village to meet my fellow editor to select the pieces that would go into the next Fankle, which I’m counting as playing my wild card, category wise (it’s either that or a very specialised form of book reading). That means that I have completed all 12 rides within the allotted time (distance: 11 miles; my observation was that the pub which I thought was open and would serve us coffee was not, which complicated things somewhat)

new drains

obligatory photo

So, for completeness (and to check that I have indeed completed the challenge) here are those entries in full:

1. 7th March Errand: fetching paper; category: store (non-grocery); distance: 11 miles.

2. 8th March Errand: attending Environment fair; category: community meeting; distance: 16 miles.

3. & 4. 11th March Errand: post office; category: work. Errand: meeting with coonsil; category: community meeting; combined distance 16 miles.

5. & 6. 12th March Errand: fetching paper; category: store (non-grocery); distance: 11 miles. Errand: choir rehearsal; category: personal care; distance 3 miles.

7., 8., 9. & 10. 13th March Errand: shoe repair; category: personal care. Errand: tour of Bigtown and lunch; cagetory: lunch. Errand: dividing up seeds; category: coffee. Errand: butcher; category: store (grocery); combined distance 32 miles.

11. 17th March Errand: editing the Fankle; category: wild card; distance 11 miles.

12. 18th March Errand: plotting over lunch; category: lunch; distance 16 miles.

So that’s 12 errands, 8 categories and 116 miles (blimey, it adds up, doesn’t it?), all of which I would have done by bicycle anyway, but it’s nice to feel you’ve achieved something just by way of a bonus…

Back to exciting drainage news tomorrow.


March 7, 2014

Last year, as you may recall, I almost did an Errandonnee by accident (and I still got a prize). This year, I was determined to do better, but I haven’t got off to a scintillating start.

Errandoneering, for those who don’t spend all their time reading about obscure bicycle stuff on the internet, challenges you to run 12 errands by bike in 12 days, between Friday March 7th and Tuesday March 19th, which is apparently 13 days but who’s counting. Of course, it’s not quite as simple as all that – you have to run a variety of errands and you have to document them, AND you have to learn something or make an observation on each one, which is hard if you’re me and you’ve forgotten you’re even doing it until you’re rounding the last corner before home (up until then I was just fetching the paper).

Still, I did remember in time and took a photo of this very interesting (to me) hole in the ground, which appears to be part of a long-running project on the part of two coonsil chaps* to sort out the drainage on our road. And my observation is that the powers that be have finally worked out that if your roads aren’t doubling up as stream beds then they might last a bit longer between visits from the tarmac fairy.


Either the council are sorting out the drains, or the local badgers have been on a health and safety course…

My next trick will be trying to come up with a sufficient variety of errands to meet the very exacting rules of this challenge. And actually remember I’m doing it this time…

Errand: fetching paper. Distance: 11 miles. Category: store (non-grocery) (unless the shop in Papershop Village counts as a grocery shop) (it’s never simple is it?)

* The usual combination of a young one who does all the digging and an old one who alternates between leaning on his spade and telling the young one how it was much better in his day. I imagine. I’ve only ever witnessed him doing the former, but the young one generally has a look on his face that suggests he’s getting more than enough of the latter.


February 18, 2013

I’m not generally one for bike related challenges – well any challenges, really, if I’m honest, as I’m far too lazy. I like to feel that my bike is just a practical means of transport rather than something for proving how fit/virtuous/deep in the midst of a midlife crisis* I am, and if I believe that I probably am deep in the midst of a midlife crisis, just not one that’s raising any money for worthy causes.

That said, I was momentarily beguiled by the idea of the Errandonneering challenge, which does sound like a bit of a fun way to spice up your various bike-based errands. The idea is to run 12 errands in 12 days (between the 9th and 20th Feb) adding up to a minimum of 30 miles. There’s a card you can get stamped and everything, and errands must be spread across a range of categories, no more than twice for each category, such as going to the bike shop, breakfast or lunch, coffee, dinner, work, grocery store (it’s American, obviously), other shopping, community meetings, health appointments, the library, and a wild card for any other type of errand not covered.

Unfortunately I only heard about it half way through – and although I do plenty of miles on my bike, it’s mostly down to the papershop and back, which wasn’t going to really cut it so I forgot all about it and headed out this morning for the paper as usual, although I did pack the pannier with my library books in the hope of catching the mobile library on its brief passage through Nearest Village (it has two regulars, apparently, and once they’ve been off it goes so you have to be quick). I missed the library (I was out by a week, and ten minutes), got the paper, and then bumped into a fellow-gardener in the village who swapped me some seed potatoes and jerusalem artichokes from his vegetable plot for some seed potatoes I’m going to pick up for him at the next Potato day. After lunch I headed off into Bigtown to catch the non-mobile library and, as I was going in anyway, I decided to pick up a new inner tube for the other half’s bike, get some luggage straps for my latest project and pick up some milk as we were running out. It was then that I realised I was about to run a total of seven qualifying errands in five categories in one day, not to mention clock up 27 miles:

  • bike shop x1
  • library x2
  • grocery store x1
  • other shop x2
  • plus wild card (vegetable swapping and garden visit) x1

Throw in, over the last couple of days, another wild card (looking for squashed wildlife), another grocery store (does the Papershop count?) and I’d only have to go and meet someone for coffee or a meal and I’d be there. Hmmm….

Unfortunately, on closer examination of the rules, I realised I didn’t take any pictures of any of these things so I have failed on the proof category. And I’d also struggle to mention one thing I’d learnt on most of these errands, apart from the date when the mobile library visits and the unfortunate side effects of jerusalem artichokes and strictly speaking I knew that last one already.

Still, it’s a pretty impressive effort for someone who didn’t even think about taking part until two days before the deadline – and there’s still part of me that thinks it might well be possible. I suspect, though, that if I were to complete the challenge, it would only prove to be the gateway drug to other, harder, challenges. You start off Errandonneering and maybe a bit of 30 days of biking, thinking you’ve got it under control – and the next thing you know it’s a Lands’ End to John O’Groats on a unicycle dressed as a camel for Comic Relief.

Stop me, somebody, before it goes that far.

*delete as applicable